Working It Out At Home: "America's Toughest Trainer"

Have you ever made a New Year's Resolution to get fit for good?

Have you ever had a gym membership paid for, but not being used?

Have you ever thought "there's got to be an easy (or at least easier) way!"? 

Seeing as this week I put you up to the May Wellness Challenge, I thought it would be most appropriate to share some fitness/ workout ideas with you today. 

In high school, I found a few videos (they were VHS tapes back then) that helped me keep motivated, stay fit, and remain interested in exercise.  I already cheered and in some seasons ran track, but I wanted a little more.  I soon discovered that I enjoyed popping out of bed and directly into the living room for a workout.  No finding sneakers, no making a lunch before school/ work, and, most importantly, no excuses. There was almost no reason under the sun that this workout could be avoided.  The weather didn't have to be nice, nor the driveway shoveled.  The car didn't have to start.  All I needed was a glass of water, a sports bra and shorts, and I was ready!

Likely because it is most socially accepted, upon graduation and moving to VA, I joined a large, national [chain] gym.  Overall, I didn't hate the gym.  It exposed me to different classes and equipment--I even tried my first yoga class there!  What I had recently rediscovered, but had known for most of my life and had been trying to combat--unsuccessfully--was that I am a morning person.  I love the morning.  It is then that I think my best thoughts and I do my best work.  If I don't exercise very soon after waking up, it may or may not happen that day.  When I found a class I liked, I made it a priority to make it "my class."  This decision, however, added length to my already heavy morning routine.  I even had to pack at night a little, which complicated things.  The class was wonderful, but arriving at the facility at 5:45 am to take my 6-7 am class began to take its toll.  I mastered the art of gym showers and often went into work without fully drying my hair.  Eventually, it was too much to juggle and I began to attend whenever [read: almost never].

When I moved out to the suburbs almost five years ago (wow! seriously, FIVE?!), I gave up my gym membership.*  I had been a member for the previous two years, although I would not be able to claim "regular attender" status, as this fluctuated from month to month.  I returned to working out at home and I love it (and still do it).  I have a number of DVDs and practices I use to maintain variety and fitness.  One of my favorite aspects of my morning routine is exercising barefoot while strengthening my feet and ankles.  (Win-win!)

Obviously, if you're interested in lifting heavy weights, running on a treadmill you don't own, or swimming daily, working out at home will likely be a bad choice.  Also, I know more than a few people who say working out at home just doesn't work for them; if you're interested in trying this at home, give it a week or two to truly give it a chance.

All this is to say, that as I mentioned in the initial challenge, one of my favorite people to workout with is Jillian Michaels.  Her snarky, but aggressively motivating commentary is the perfect balance of helpful and kick-my-ass.  Almost all of the DVDs I own at this point--over half--are hers.  Here are a few things you should know about her, if you're interested in getting to know her better.

Jillian Michaels: "America's Toughest Trainer"

Here is her website.  I haven't used it, but it looks like pretty great.  Keep in mind, it is primarily a weight loss site, so you may find only some of the resources available meet your needs.  It provides tools like sample fitness and meal plans, routines (including short video demonstrations of specific moves!), as well as a weight loss community to join.

Here is a workout she designed for Self Magazine.  Try it to see whether you like/ want/ need the type of workout she provides.

In terms of what has worked for me, I own and use the following DVDs:

- Jillian's "Ripped in 30" (2011) is awesome.  This one includes four complete workouts, levels 1 through 4; each level is approximately 24 minutes long.  This DVD combines Jillian's "3-2-1 interval system," which means she directs you through 3 minutes of strength (with 5-10 pound weights), 2 minutes of cardio, and 1 minute of abdominal work.  Levels 3 and 4 are especially tough, but each level is a good workout.  You should expect to sweat through all of these workouts.  Needed: small weights, possibly a mat/ towel.

- My most recent (just got it this winter), Jillian's "Yoga Meltdown" (2009) is wonderful.  It's a hybrid style of yoga, rather than traditional yoga.  It's comprised of two complete workouts, levels 1 and 2; each is approximately 30 minutes.  I like this for a little relaxation and a little sweat.  Needed: yoga mat or carpet.

- Jillian's "30 Day Shred" (2007) is also pretty good.  At this point, I prefer "Ripped in 30," but only because I've had "30 Day Shred" for longer.  There are 3 workouts, approximately 25 minutes each.  It contains 3 levels for variety and progress.  Like "Ripped in 30," it utilizes the "3-2-1 system" and delivers strength, cardio, and abdominal exercises.  Needed: small weights, possibly a mat/ towel.

- "Banish Fat Boost Metabolism" (2008) is a longer workout--not my favorite, but not bad (too much cardio for my taste).  It's one 40 minute cardio segment plus a 5 minute warm-up and a 5 minute cool-down, so 50 minutes total.  For this one, you don't need weights.  Needed: possibly a mat/ towel.

- The Biggest Loser "Power Sculpt" (2007) features five segments, for a customizable workout each time. This is a good workout if you add to the level 1.  The first, a 5 minute warm-up; next, level 1, 20 minutes; third, level 2, 10 minutes; next, level 3, 10 minutes; and last, a cool-down, 5 minutes.  Each level gets progressively more challenging, but you can program it differently each time you use it.  Needed: small weights, possibly a mat/ towel.

- The Biggest Loser "Cardio Blast" (2007) has pretty much exactly the same setup as the "Power Sculpt," except that it is cardio only.  Again, I don't prefer solely cardio workouts, but good overall.  Similarly, it features five segments, for a customizable workout each time.  The first, a 5 minute warm-up; next, level 1, 20 minutes; third, level 2, 10 minutes; next, level 3, 10 minutes; and last, a cool-down, 5 minutes.  And, like the other, each level gets progressively more challenging, but you can program it differently each time you use it.  Needed: possibly a mat/ towel.

Can't believe this stash! I swear I'm not obsessed--only a fan.

If you like the idea, but aren't sure, check your library for exercise DVDs to try before you buy!  For some people, these can suffice for your whole workout regimen.  For others, this may be a good solution for business trips, family vacations, or days where you're short on time.  The main point of taking all this time to outline what I like about Jillian's videos is that she helps motivate, challenge, and change you without a huge time commitment.  In some of them she even says as much; "If you want a 20 minute workout, you're going to have to earn it (no rest!)."

I understand these will not work for everyone, but I thought that if you knew how easy it is to carve out these 20-30 minute workout blocks, you might be more inclined to make it happen in your daily life--and that's what the May Wellness Challenge is all about.  So, whether you run, swim, lift weights, do a DVD, or hop to the gym, make some time to create the health, attitude, and body you want.

* FYI: I say "gave up" here, like it was some sort of sacrifice; it wasn't.  I don't mean to mislead.  I willingly and enthusiastically surrendered my membership for no guilt and a fatter bank account.

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